Preschooler meeting her daily nutritional requirements with a healthy meal

Nutritional Requirements for Children after the Fifth Year

Your physically active five-year-old child needs energy and proper nutrients to keep him fuelled throughout the day. Here are some healthy eating tips for your lively little one to make sure that he gets all the nutrition he needs!

Know the Recommended Servings

Feed your active pre-schooler a wide variety of nutrient-dense food from all the major food groups! Here is the recommended number of servings he should be getting in a day.

Recommended number of servings per day

Brown rice and wholemeal bread

Fruit

Vegetables

Meat and Others

Meat

Dairy foods or calcium-rich foods

3 - 4

1

1

1

1

Examples of 1 serving

Brown Rice and Wholemeal Bread

Vegetables

  • 2 slices wholemeal bread (60g)
  • ½ bowl* brown rice (100g)
  • 2 bowls* brown rice porridge (500g)
  • ½ bowl* whole-grain noodles, spaghetti or beehoon (100g)
  • 4 plain wholemeal biscuits (40g)
  • 1 thosai (60g)
  • 2 wholemeal chapatis (60g)
  • ¾ mug** cooked leafy vegetables (100g)
  • ¾ mug cooked non-leafy vegetables (100g)
  • 150g raw leafy vegetables
  • 100g raw non-leafy vegetables
  • ¼ round plate+ cooked vegetables

Fruit

Meat and Others

  • 1 small apple, orange, pear or mango (130g)
  • 1 wedge pineapple, papaya or watermelon (130g)
  • 10 grapes or longans (50g)
  • 1 medium banana
  • ¼ cup*** dried fruit (40g)
  • 1 palm-sized piece fish, lean meat or skinless poultry (90g)
  • 2 small blocks soft bean curd (170g)
  • ¾ cup cooked pulses (e.g. lentils, peas, beans) (120g)
  • 5 medium prawns (90g)
  • 3 eggs (150g)
  • 2 glasses of milk (500ml)

* rice bowl
** 250ml mug
*** 250ml cup + 10 inch plate

Related: Harness the Goodness of Fruit and Vegetables

My Healthy Plate

Need a hand with portions? Use My Healthy Plate as a visual guide. Using a child’s plate (not an adult’s plate!), offer a variety of healthy food and aim to serve ½ plate of vegetables and fruit, ¼ plate of wholegrains, and ¼ plate of meat/others for your child’s main meals.

Use My Healthy Plate to make sure your child gets a healthy, balanced diet

Related: Benefits of Vegetables

Nutrition 101 for Pre-Schoolers

Three meals shaped like round faces will entice your child to clean his or her plate.

Facts about Fats

Fat is an essential nutrient in your child’s diet. Without fat, your child's growth and development will be affected. Fat provides energy and helps absorb, transport, and store vitamins in the body. However, too much fat, especially saturated fat and trans fats can lead to excessive weight gain and health problems like heart disease and stroke. Red meat, for example, has lots of saturated fats, so offer your pre-schooler small portions of lean meat instead.

Choose good fats such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat instead—you will find these in cooking oils with the Healthier Choice Symbol, fish like salmon and sardine, avocados, and nuts like walnuts and almonds.

Be mindful of the portions. Too much good fat can still result in too many calories, leading to unnecessary weight gain and obesity.

Related: Getting the Fats Right!

Bone up on Calcium

Calcium is an essential part of your child’s balanced diet as it helps to develop strong, healthy bones and teeth. The best calcium sources are dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt. Other good sources include fortified food (e.g. soybean milk), dark green leafy vegetables and fish with edible bones (e.g. sardines).

Related: Dear Dairy

Whole grains are better

Your child loves breads and cereals for breakfast? That's great! Bread and cereals are good sources of fibre, carbohydrates, protein and a wide range of vitamins and minerals. Make sure you choose whole grains breakfast food that will give your child all the energy he needs to start off his day.

Go Green for Fibre

Have a fussy eater who just refuses to clean his or her plate? Continue making sure your child gets his required daily intake of vegetables and fruit. Not only does fibre prevent heart disease and other conditions, it also helps aid digestion and prevents constipation.

Think up of creative ways to encourage your child to eat his vegetables and fruit each day: frozen fruit make yummy sweet treats on a hot day, while corn, mushrooms and carrot are good alternatives for your child if he doesn’t like the slightly bitter taste of dark green leafy vegetables like chye sim. Getting your pre-schooler to fill up more on fruit and vegetables can also help your child avoid gaining too much weight.

Related: More Fibre for a Fit and Fabulous You

Drink Up

Your child will need plenty of water throughout the day so make sure they stay hydrated. Don’t wait until they’re thirsty to give them water; sometimes kids can have too much fun playing under the sun and forget to refresh themselves.

Kids should drink more water when they are ill, when it’s hot outside, or when they are engaged in physical activity. If they find water too bland, add a couple of slices of lemon or cucumber to zest it up.

Avoid giving your child sweetened drinks and offer your child no more than two cups of milk a day.

Related: The Drop of Life—6 Reasons to Drink Water

Eat Healthy When Dining Out

While parents can ensure healthier meals at home, it can be a challenge to choose healthier food options for your child when eating at restaurants with the rest of the family.

Preschooler preparing to have a meal with the rest of the family.

Here are a few tips on good nutrition for mum and dad when dining out:

  1. Choose from the adult menu.

    It’s perfectly fine to order food for your child from the main menu instead of the kid’s menu, especially if the main menu offers healthier options. The portions will probably be too big if you order from the adult menu, so try asking if the chef is willing to prepare a kid-sized version of the dish, or simply share the dish with your child. Ask for a smaller plate so you can portion it out for your little one. Cut up lean meats into bite-sized, kid-friendly pieces that are easier for your child to chew.

  2. Choose healthier sides.

    If you have an option of choosing the sides, opt for a salad or steamed veggies instead of fries.

  3. Avoid sauce- or gravy-based dishes.

    These usually contain very high amounts of sodium, sugar, and/or calories, so avoid ordering foods that come with generous amounts of gravy, e.g. curry.

  4. Avoid processed food.

    These food items—e.g. hot dog, luncheon meat, and nuggets—are usually high in sodium.

  5. Choose healthier cooking methods.

    Look for dishes that have been stir-fried, baked, grilled, poached or steamed. Avoid deep fried foods—these are usually high in calories and fat. Food like nuggets and fries might appeal to your child, but let them know that those are “sometimes” food to be eaten in small amounts.

  6. Order healthy appetisers.

    If the mains do not have sufficient vegetables, order a variety of appetisers like salads or vegetables for sharing. Salad dressing is high in calories, so keep the dressing on the side.

  7. Choose fruitful desserts.

    Avoid fattening garnishes like whipped cream, hot fudge, and rainbow sprinkles if you can, and opt for healthy toppings such as nuts or fresh fruit instead.

Related: Navigating the Tricky World of Kid’s Menus

Don’t forget the basics!

  • Do not force your child to finish all the food on his plate.
  • Offer veggies as a second helping if your child is still hungry after a meal—rice and meat are high in calories so avoid offering those as an extra helping.
  • Snacks - even healthy snacks - should be limited so that your child will be hungry at mealtime.
  • In the kitchen, choose healthier cooking methods like steaming, stir-frying, and baking instead of deep frying.
  • Continue setting a good example for your little one by eating healthy, else your child will not learn.

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